Click the link to the facebook album. Union busting rats…
Click the link to the facebook album. Union busting rats…
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread heads to court Tuesday to try to throw out its union contracts, in a battle that leaves the iconic baker’s future very much in doubt.
Hostess Brands, which makes Ding Dongs and a variety of other sweet treats, is asking the bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y. to tear up labor agreements, which would, among other things, allow Hostess to change how it funds union pensions.The hearing is expected to last two days.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, together represent more than three-quarters of the 18,500 workers at the company.
The Teamsters have vowed to strike if the judge agrees with management’s request and dumps the labor deals.
But both management and the unions agree that the company is unlikely to survive a strike.
“We would no longer have cash to keep operating,” said Hostess management in a letter sent to employees on Monday. “All Hostess Brands operations would shut down and liquidation would begin. The 18,500 jobs, plus the health insurance that comes with them, would be lost for good.”
The company filed for bankruptcy in January, it’s second trip to bankruptcy court since 2004. And management has said that the investors who are financing the company during bankruptcy would pull out if there is a strike.
Hostess was founded as Interstate Bakeries in 1930, although some of its best-known products go back much farther than that. Wonder Bread is 90 years old and Drake’s cakes have been produced since 1888. The company was renamed Hostess Brands as it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.
At the time of its January bankruptcy filing, Hostess said it pays about $63.2 million to its employees per pay period and owes more than $1 billion to more than 50,000 creditors. The bakers’ union pension fund was the biggest creditor, owed $994 million, according to the filing.
Hostess said it is offering an attractive package to unions, including a traditional defined benefit pension plan and the same health insurance plan that’s offered to management, with 85% of the premiums paid by the company. It’s also proposing a pay freeze for workers, rather pay cuts.
The Teamsters charge management is pushing for the confrontation and possible shutdown because its secured creditors are calling the shots, and see liquidation as a better chance of recovering their money.But the union says it’s willing to give Hostess the cost savings it says it needs.
“We put an offer on table with $150 million in concessions,” said Ken Hall, the Teamsters’ secretary-treasurer. “There is not a chance our members would accept [the company’s offer]. They won’t work for nothing.”
The union said it wants to see more sacrifices by management.
“If there is no shared sacrifice and no equality of sacrifice, then there’s no deal,” said Teamsters General President Jimmy Hoffa in a call with memberships last week.
The Bakers’ union did not respond to calls asking for its plans if the union pacts are thrown out by the court. But the Teamsters say the Bakers have agreed not to cross Teamsters picket lines if they walk.
Hall charges that Hostess is simply trying to get out of $1.9 billion in pension obligations, and that 91% of Hostess Teamsters have voted in favor of a strike, even though the union has made it clear that liquidation is a likely outcome of a strike. He said a strike date won’t be set until after a court decision.
“We want to at least put into that judge’s mind … that perhaps throwing out the contract is not going to save the company,” he told members at Hostess in a conference call last week.
Hall said Hostess’ labor costs are $400 per driver per week less than rival Bimbo Bakeries, which makes Arnold’s bread as well as Entenmann’s baked goods and Thomas’ English Muffins.
(Video) Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934
Tristin Adie reviews a case study in working class power in her talk on how the Teamsters overcame incredible odds and became a turning point in the rise of industrial unionism in the 1930’s. New England Marxism Conference, Harvard University, 11/12/11.
Great article. No better example of the battle between the 99% and the 1% than the rich asshole at Sotheby’s and brothers and sisters they’ve locked out from Teamsters Local 814.
From the article:
About 400 blew whistles and shouted “shame” as patrons in suits filed through a police cordon to enter Sotheby’s much ballyhooed contemporary art sale.
Management has locked 43 blue-collar art handlers out of their jobs since August 1, as punishment for refusing to accept cuts to their hours, benefits, and job security. They’re members of Teamsters Local 814.
Occupy Wall Street protesters have conducted serial disruptions during Sotheby’s auctions, standing up one by one and denouncing union-busting by the company, which is making soaring profits but insists it should be able to replace full-time workers with lower-paid temps. Sotheby’s responded by requiring a $5,000 deposit to enter its auctions.
The Occupy Movement couldn’t ask for a better poster child for wealth and power run amok. “Sotheby’s: Where the .01 percent go to shop,” said one sign Wednesday. “Art for the masses, not the upper classes,” they chanted. “All day, all week, occupy Sotheby’s.”
Labor has embraced Occupy Wall Street because the movement is succeeding where unions have stumbled—turning the national attention back onto those responsible for the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression, and onto who should pay to clean up the mess.
In two-and-a-half years on the defensive about the auto bailout, health care reform, and so-called greedy public sector workers, unions have spent untold time and treasure trying to turn the tide of public opinion. From the One Nation rally last fall to the AFL-CIO’s April actions in solidarity with Wisconsin, labor has struggled to silence the drumbeat of austerity and anti-unionism.
“We endorsed Occupy Wall Street because they’re 100 percent right that banks caused this problem,” said Marvin Holland, director of community action for Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents 38,000 bus and subway workers.
Some unions, notably the Service Employees, with their Fight for a Fair Economy campaign, and National Nurses United, with their Main Street Contract with America, have made changing the national economic debate a major thrust of their activity. But outside the Wisconsin uprising, none of labor’s efforts have pricked the national consciousness in the same way as Occupy Wall Street.
“This has really struck a nerve way up the spinal cord,” said Jason Chambers, a 10-year ironworker who’s been camping out in Dewey Square since the start of Occupy Boston. “People are just fed up that there’s no accountability for these banks that got bailed out. Meanwhile our rights are under attack across the country.”
Although participating in the occupy movement has been an adjustment for labor activists unaccustomed to the lack of formal demands or clearly identified leaders, for others it’s opened up new horizons. “This is the first time I’ve seen real democracy in my lifetime, at the general assembly at Occupy Boston,” Chambers said.
This third-generation ironworker, die-hard Bruins fan, and self-described regular guy says the “occupy” phenomenon has had a profound impact on him and his co-workers. “My vote counts and my voice is heard. To be able to contribute to it is amazing.”
But the most important lessons union activists should soak up from time spent shoulder to shoulder with the occupiers are their audacity and their commitment to direct democracy.
After a generation of defeats, union leaders instinctively head for what’s “politically possible.” The occupiers have turned that conventional wisdom on its head, focusing not on what we can win this minute but on what we deserve.
The ground is fertile for a new common sense, and the seeds are just hitting soil.